Why ImageBrief is (probably) a Waste of Your Time

During the past few years, many photography Agencies have emerged offering “Photo Requests”, where clients make specific requests for images. Contributors then post images which they feel match the brief and are paid accordingly if the image(s) is selected. Sounds simple enough.

ImageBrief Model

One such Agency that has emerged as a Photo Requests market-leader is ImageBrief, followed by Snapwire and more recently, Shutterstock Custom. Each of these deserves a separate review, but for the purposes of this article, I’ll discuss ImageBrief and my own experiences.

At the onset, everything sounds rosy, as can be seen from the ImageBrief About section, which includes some cool videos and enticing calls-to-action, such as the following:

“ImageBrief is about creative folk – the people who buy images and the people who make them – and a series of (mainly brief) beautiful relationships where everyone gets what they want.

We support photographers who have real talent, ability and industry experience. We’re not open to all comers. We work closely with commercial art buyers, editors, creatives and agencies to provide unique, high-quality images to match, or exceed, their creative vision.”

Example of a Brief

Value of briefs vary wildly from $250 to $1500 per image, making them extremely attractive considering the average lower value of microstock royalties these days (in my case, an average of just under $1/per image). Specifications also value with some requiring exclusivity and/or releases.

Let’s look at an example brief I participated back in August:


This was only a few months after I had been to the UAE and I had dozens of hypnotic desert images in my hard-drive. I looked at the sample image and after some brief post-processing to emulate the desired look, I submitted a maximum of 10 images to this brief (as permitted in the non-premium account).


Brief Expired…

Each brief has an expiration date and then a review period. In this brief, the review period came and passed…however, even after 6 months it still shows the following screen:

Taking a little longer than expected? Understatement of the week!

I then proceeded to check all the briefs that weren’t awarded and many strangely are still “pending” with this vague message.

Not really bothered but it keeps happening

Fair enough that sometimes clients don’t select any images they find interesting, or change their mind or never had any intention to begin with. Perhaps it’s a combination of all of the above.

For me it’s cool since I’m submitting speculatively anyway with non-exclusive images already on my hard-drive. But from my small sample, this happens more than half the time, which is quite annoying.

I’ve gathered some data and for the past 18 months I’ve participated in 41 briefs, including the desert one above. Out of those:

  • 22 images expired with no images selected or are still pending after weeks/months (54%) – For all intents and purposes they’re closed
  • Only 13 had images shortlisted (32%)
  • Of those only 6 were awarded (15%)

I asked Master Steve on his numbers and he’s provided me with similar numbers. He’s submitted to 86 briefs of which:

  • 57 were closed (66%) with no shortlists
  • 10 (12%) are still pending.
  • Therefore, only 19 images were shortlisted then awarded (22%) 
Some briefs I’ve participated in the past months which are still showing “pending”

Looking for answers from ImageBrief

I’ve pressed Imagebrief for some answers as to why briefs are closed with no images selected. Unfortunately, I didn’t receive any concrete answers and they directed me to a blog post on the subject which I didn’t find particularly useful, such as the following Q&A:

“So,” you ask, “What’s happening with my images while they’re in a pending brief?”

The answer is we’re working to sell them to as many people as possible. We have a dedicated buyer-facing team that verifies all the buyers on ImageBrief, they work with the buyers through the briefing process, and follow up with them on every brief.

Some theories as to why some many briefs are not selected

From reading the forums as well as from my experiences in the industry, the following are some cynical theories which may apply to why clients launch briefs but never shortlist/select images:

  • Clients have no incentive to buy and since they didn’t pay anything for the service most don’t really care. Apparently, Imagebrief don’t punish clients that continuously open briefs and don’t select any images.
  • Fishing exercise by clients to quickly get a few ideas and shoot a similar shot in-house or even find the same image for cheap at a Microstock agency using the Google Reverse tool. This would save a client considerable amount of time on searching.
  • Related to the above, use of tight deadlines (such as little as 24 hours) to find suitable ideas/images with no intention of selecting from Imagebrief. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if buyers could Google Reverse interesting images to purchase them on Micros for cheap.
  • Those with a premium account have a preference on buyer selection. Imagebrief continuously push for contributors to sign up as a premium contributor to receive supposed benefits.

Exclusive images

If you do submit to briefs, make sure to read the contract first to stay out of trouble as some briefs require exclusivity.

I have submitted images exclusively to some briefs only to have to wait many weeks before pulling such images since the client couldn’t make up his/her mind. Therefore, I’ve given up submitting to these types of briefs for the same reasons that I don’t play casino games.

Master Steve has had success

To make this analysis more balanced, it’s only fair to include some success stories. In this case, Master Steve (as I like to call him), licensed a “head-shot” for $1050 with a $250 renewal. He’s written about this image and his experiences on his blog post.


Perhaps I’m being too harsh. If these were micro-licenses one could make the argument that it’s not worth the effort but for +$1k on a single image…

Making the best of a bad situation

How may I maximise my chances to land a high-value competitive brief with not too much effort? The following are some of the strategies I’m adopting:

  • Ignore exclusive briefs. I wrote about this earlier since it’s too much trouble to withhold an image from being sold elsewhere in the miracle chance a buyer decides to use it on Imagebrief;
  • Ignore briefs that require model releases. Just too much admin for something so uncertain.
  • Ignore vague briefs, such as the following:
This type of scenario is so common in Microstock, so why would a buyer potentially pay $500 for a non-exclusive image even if it model-released?
  • Focus on specific briefs that don’t have much competition. From my own experience, I’ve singled out this brief about cachaca…which also helps that I recently visited the world-capital of the drink in Minas Gerais.


I subsequently submitted some images to the brief, including one I indicated “model release upon request” of my awesome grandfather.


  • Lastly and perhaps most importantly, don’t go out and try to capture images related to the brief, unless 1) it’s not that much effort and 2) you can justify submitting them to other agencies.

Hope that helps and perhaps with the strategy I’m adopting I’ll finally land a brief at Imagebrief. At least I’ve kept my expectations low.

What’s been your experiences at ImageBrief? Share below!

Until next time!




  1. 100% agree about the exclusive ones – I submitted to one of those in December and no action since. They were very specific about their requirements and the contributors provided that, but nothing! It is always difficult to pull your images just in case they decide to go ahead, which is really annoying!
    There is one positive to being a member over there – you can get ideas for new shoots or subjects, and if you only submit to non-exclusive ones, then you have potentially created a new series of images that will sell elsewhere.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I made one sale about four years ago on ImageGrief (yes, that’s letter G) but quickly grew weary of several problems. One red flag was when they started insisting on high resolution files for submissions, which is IMHO is not necessary. The biggest issue I had, and which I complained about regularly to Ken Pao and Simon Moss, was the total lack of standards applied to submitted images that were ACTUALLY POSTED on the briefs. A high percentage of the images I saw posted, and I looked at a lot of them, were simply not publishable technically, were compositionally weak, or more often, they just didn’t match the details of the request posted by the buyer.

    Imagegrief’s policy of POSTING those was a fatal flaw.

    By accepting a high volume of junk images and passing those to hopeful buyers, Imagegrief was showing its inability to distinguish publishable images from amateur snapshots. Buyers then had to wade through far too many useless pictures in hopes of finding a few reasonable candidates. If I were the buyer, I’d abandon a supplier like that. I suspect that many did.

    So one had to wonder why Imagegrief posted such unsuitable images. They apparently did have an “editor” who should have been weeding out the unsuitable submissions, but a lot sure slipped through anyway. Actually, I am doubtful that any editing was being done.

    At one point, I read a multi-page commentary on the site by that editor with advice on making quality submissions, with the main point being to submit images which “match the buyer’s request”. Yet more often than not, the content of posted images did NOT match the request. For example: one brief asked for pictures of farmers in a field; IG posted pictures of an empty field, cows with no people, and an object which might have been a farm implement except it was too dark to really know for sure! Another brief seeking identical twins dressed alike yielded – can you guess – two young women, possibly sisters, dressed quite differently. For a brief seeking a vintage motorcycle, someone submitted a beat up reasonably modern bike with the fork seeming to be bent or broken, leaning forlornly against an ugly wall with debris on the concrete ground. Virtually every brief I saw contained a high proportion of images which just didn’t match the buyer’s specs.

    How on earth could an editor allow those images to be posted? Why would a buyer continue seeking photographs from a service that offered UNPUBLISHABLE images???

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I had a big sale with them in 2016. But, other than that much smaller sale and a lot of shortlisted but nothing briefs. I am sad to see them announce the closure because I actually enjoyed participating in the briefs, but tbh in the last few mths I have meant to end my subscription (which as discounted for me last year). Recently, I had been getting emails that the original big client wanted to relicense my inges, but I never heard anything…it’s all really strange.


  4. For those of you who don’t know it, ImageBrief officially closed for business a few weeks ago. Upon notification I contacted them with concerns about collecting money they owe me for usage fees. I was promised someone would contact me within a week and I never heard. I sent additional emails but received no response. I expect they were already paid for the usage since it was months ago the photos were licensed. This obviously leaves me with a very negative impression of ImageBrief and the people who used to run it. Not very honorable at all. If by some miracle I receive payment I will let the Forum know. Mark Weidman


  5. A friend and I submitted exact same photos for briefs and she was constantly making money while I never sold one image. Then they submitted a brief asking for winter clothing while showing summer clothing and when I asked about this, and why my friend was always picked, they removed me from the group. Then, about a month later, I received an email stataing that their servers were hacked and all teh images were stolen and IB had no idea where the images would show up!!!


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